Vinning Ugly: Sikh ward heeler’s slow-dance for the Senate

Could the dream still be alive for Prem Vinning?

Long has the Liberal turban-wrangler coveted a berth in the Senate, and among the 23 vacancies by President Steve is one rare and precious B.C. barcalounger, vacated in 2012 by mine ’n’ wine tycoon Ross Fitzpatrick.

How inconvenient, then, to hear all this talk of Doing Politics Differently™, of snatching away the rightful spoils of party bumboys and bagmen to build a shining nonpartisan meritocracy on the Hill. They can’t be serious about this shit, can they?

At least the City of Surrey knows talent when they see it, throwing $28,800 at Prem’s company, Concise Consulting, to help shake loose infrastructure pork from the feds.

It’s a passing delicate business, as Prem’s sons have both scored ministerial gigs in Liberal Ottawa.

Gurpreet Vinning, 30, is a fun policy advisor and special assistant (western and northern Canada) to Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, while little brother Manjeet, 28, is a senior special fartcatcher to Defence Minister Die Harjit Sajjan.

“I’m aware of the perceived conflicts and I’m not going to lobby the ministries of infrastructure and defence for obvious reasons but my mandate is something different and I’m looking forward to helping Surrey realize the work that needs to be done,” quoth Prem in Surrey’s South Asian Link fishwrap.

Just what expertise Prem brings to the task apart from his Liberal intimacies, though, eludes many.

Readers will recall that Sajjan won his Liberal nomination in Vancouver South only after the frontrunner, moderate Sikh Barj Dhahan, mysteriously dropped out of contention.

Dhahan’s apoplectic supporters were left theatrically tearing up their membership cards and pointing to cagey old Vinning, past president of the fundie World Sikh Organization, as party HQ’s grubby-fingered orchestrator of the coup.

If this was indeed the case, it was an organizational triumph a long time coming for the old meeting-stacker.

It’s been a quarter century, after all, since Prem’s bus-stuffing acumen delivered the Lower Mainland Sikh vote to Jean Crouton’s 1990 leadership campaign. He coasted for years on this victory as proof of his organizational prowess; despite many subsequent failures to actually deliver his promised mobs to the polls.

Typical of his all-turban-no-cattle oeuvre was Christy Clark’s 2005 grab for the Vancouver mayoralty, cruelly cut short when Prem’s busloads of instant members failed to materialize and Christy lost the NPA nomination to Sam Sullivan.

Many setbacks, too, in Prem’s years-long crusade for the Senate, only his due after his invaluable assistance to Crouton. He insisted it was only a matter of time; he was on the A-list of the PM’s intimates, the consummate Ottawa insider, etc.

All of which made Prem’s reception at one nineties Liberal bunfest at the Museum of Civilization all the more puzzling. The oleaginous powerbroker inexplicably found himself relegated to the cheap seats, barely in binocular range of Crouton’s table.

Prem finally managed to wave down a PMO thingy and asked him to secure him a minute with his pal the PM, to which Crouton replied: “Which one is he? Da one dat always wear da black turban?”

Prem campaigned mightily when BC Senator Len Marchand’s seat came up for grabs in ’98, braunnosing Indo minister Herb Dhaliwal to reward a loyal party hack.

It was all for naught; the sinecure went to Ross Fitzpatrick, the longtime Crouton chum and undead party bagman.

Pissed, Prem switched his allegiance to Paul Martin, telling anyone who would listen that Junior had secured his loyalty with the firm offer of one golden ticket to the Senate.

Who’da thunk that by 2001, the next time one of BC’s six Senate seats came up for grabs, Crouton would still be PM? Certainly not Prem.

Yet so it was when Senator Ray Perrault reached his mandatory best before age of 75 and waddled from the Udder Place.

Suddenly, Prem rediscovered his undying loyalty to Crouton. The Martinites were most unimpressed by the invertebrate display, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Alas, Crouton installed Liberal lifer Mobina Jaffer in Perrault’s pew at the ripe old age of 51, dashing Prem’s dreams once again. Martin appointed a single BC Senator, Larry Campbell, before the onset of the long, cold Harper years.

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